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PMC continues budget diversion, donation spree
February, 24th 2010

The general body (GB) of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) on Monday continued its habit of diverting budgetary funds to non-budgeted works and approving excessive donations for festivals and cultural programmes.

Already, approximately Rs 100 crore, set aside in the civic budget for specific development projects, last year, have been re-allocated by the standing committee for non-budgeted works. These funds were diverted by the committee at the instance of corporators who either wanted it to be spent on their pet projects or cultural events.

Many big and small civic projects mentioned in last year's budget have remained incomplete, and, instead, new plans were carried out on corporators' demand.

Congress corporator Arun Dhimdhime said during the GB meeting on Monday that never in his political career had a seen such a huge amount (of over Rs 100 crore) from the annual budget being allotted for works not mentioned in the budget.

Standing committee chairman Nilesh Nikam said on Monday, "This money was originally allotted for works which failed to start mainly because corporators wanted the money to be diverted for works they found more important."

The demand to curb civic donations and co-sponsorships for festivals and celebrations is fast gaining momentum, due to the annual civic budget running into a deficit and municipal commissioner Mahesh Zagade proposing a steep hike in taxes.

However, the PMC continued its donation spree on Monday. The decision to allot Rs 51 lakh for the 83rd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan the all India Marathi literary meet, scheduled in March was approved by the GB.

Around Rs 10 lakh for co-sponsorship of Hema Malini's dance programme, Rs 11 lakh for a religious programme, Rs 16 lakh for a cultural festival and Rs 10 lakh each for sports events and PMC celebrations were sanctioned.

It may be noted that, on an average, the PMC makes annual donations of some Rs 3 crore to various organisations and provides funds of around Rs 2 crore for many cultural festivals. Every year, the annual civic budget has provisions for celebration of religious festivals, funding of cultural programmes majority of them organised by groups affiliated to different elected representatives.

The PMC co-sponsors various events, shelling out a big chunk from its budget for this purpose. Also, provisions like Rs 5 lakh for tea and expenditure on various meetings as well as office renovations, gobble up a reasonable part of the budget.

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